Spending in travel agents was up by 3% year-on-year in the key January booking period, figures from Barclaycard reveal.
Of this, the level of online sales rose by 11.4% while bookings made in-store fell by 4.3%.
Spending on airline tickets was up by 3.6% with an 11.4% increase in online bookings but a 5.2% drop in average transaction value.
Overall consumer spending rose by 3.8% last month, partly due to prices being slashed.
But a “marked drop” in consumer confidence has been recorded since December, with three in ten people feeling less confident in the UK economy now than at the start of the year.
Barclaycard research shows that consumer sentiment has fallen sharply this year – with the proportion of people who expect the global economy to deteriorate over the next three months surging from two in ten (22%) to four in ten (42%).
The findings suggest 2016 will be a tough year for retailers as consumer caution, first adopted during the recession, shows no signs of fading, the study found.
Where a third of consumers (34%) expected to ‘splash out on at least one major item’ in 2016 when asked in December, that figure plummeted to under a quarter (23%) in January, the research revealed.
Barclaycard managing director, Paul Lockstone, said: “January spending provided a much-needed boost to retail sales, though our data suggests that merchants took a hit as they grappled for market share.
“Consumers took advantage of the steep discounts to buy big-ticket items such as furniture or white goods, and it’ll be interesting to see if February spending is much more muted as a result of this ‘stock-up’ mentality.
“It seems the downbeat news about the economy is taking a toll on consumer sentiment, however, with many shoppers reporting that they are less confident about the economy and, as a result, about their own financial prospects.
“Consumers will continue to place value for money front and centre when making purchasing decisions – they are willing to spend, but on their own terms.”
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